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Sage Grouse Implementation Team looks at branding efforts moving forward

Written by Saige Albert

During their Feb. 27 meeting, the Sage Grouse Implementation Team (SGIT) heard a number of updates, including a report from the SGIT Communications Team, who has been exploring new opportunities to re-brand the effort, and updates on the latest sage grouse numbers.

Marketing efforts

During the October 2016 meeting, a communications subgroup was established for SGIT.

“Since that time, we have had a lot of movement,” said Joy Bannon, of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation and chair of the subgroup. “We have 25 people who are part of that group.”

The committee has begun identifying different aspects of communication for each month of the year.

“For January, we decided because, there’s a new administration nationally, we would have a message that Wyoming’s SGIT and our conservation strategy will survive this administrative change,” she explained.

They reached out to reporters around the state and promoted SGIT and it’s 10-year existence. They also released an opinion editorial and distributed it to newspapers statewide.

“For February, we decided we will start developing an opinion editorial,” Bannon continues. “We decided that four leaders of the SGIT that have been around since its inception would be perfect as authors of the op-ed.”

The team hopes to discuss conservation efforts and promote the work of SGIT, as well.

“In subsequent months, we will have other opinion editorials,” she said. “It’s exciting.

In March and April, they will focus on social media posts to highlight sage grouse and the sagebrush ecosystem.

“We’re going to try to lead the way on communication,” Bannon emphasized.

Focus groups

With 25 team members, Bannon said they opted to split the subcommittee into various focus areas.

They formed a media protocols focus group to provide guidance for SGIT to interface with the media and a focus group to look at re-branding the SGIT, with the goal of improving the team’s ability to market their work to the general public.

“Our goal is to better communicate the SGIT purpose and image and to provide better internal guidance for all members,” said Nyssa Whitford, a member of the SGIT subcommittee. “We’ve collaborated to create a new mission, vision and logo.”

After 10 years since the implementation of SGIT, the committee noted that it was necessary to continue to communicate SGIT’s purpose clearly and succinctly, while also providing necessary information to parties interested in and curious about the work of the team.

“While we won’t debate the logo, mission or vision today, I think the subcommittee has captured a lot of the things we need to have in those elements,” SGIT Chairman Bob Budd said.

He emphasized that the two-pronged mission of SGIT, however, must be included, and the subcommittee would be making additional changes to the branding documents before they are used.

“We have a two-headed mission, and we need our mission statement to reflect that,” he commented. “It is equally important that we maintain economic opportunities at the same time we do conservation work.”

Over the next several weeks, SGIT team members will provide comments on the new branding materials, so they can be finalized and used in publications.

Grouse production

During the meeting, Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) also reported that 2016 was a very poor year for sage grouse chick production.

“We had very poor chick production as was evidenced by our wing counts,” said WGFD’s Tom Christensen. “We take hunter-harvested wings and the look at the ratio of chicks to hens.”

The data show 0.9 chicks per hen were produced this year.

Over the last 20 years, that number has ranged from 0.8 chicks per hen to 2.4.

“We can expect, based on two years of data and how numbers influence this year’s lek counts, that we’re likely looking at a noticeable decline in lek counts this spring,” he added. “That data is consistent with folks who were on the ground this spring.”

The low chick production is likely a result of a very cool, wet spring coupled with flooding in sage grouse areas and exposure of chicks to harsh weather.

“This happens, and we should expect lower lek counts this year,” he said.

Outside the state

In North Dakota, Christensen indicated that the state was down to 17 males on their leks in 2016, and they were looking for a source to for translocation for many years.

“After negotiations and support of innovative research, we took the proposal to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, and they approved it last fall,” he continued. “They’ll be taking 30 to 40 hens for two years. Then, we’ll re-evaluate the program.”

Part of the translocation effort involves a study on the impacts to the population, including other techniques to settle the hens into their new locations.

As an example, Christensen referenced artificial insemination of hens.

“The idea is, if the hen is inseminated, she’ll settle down immediately, as opposed to not being bred, then leaving the suitable habitat and dying,” he said. “We’re going to work on a site north of Rawlins.”

Christensen added that they are currently looking for the right location to avoid influencing other sage grouse work.

Translocation efforts are scheduled to begin in early 2017.

“We’re working out the logistics right now,” he added. “These translocations will happen this year and next year.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..